Written descriptions and photographs cannot fully prepare you for the Stoney Raise cairn, it is immense.
If you approach the cairn from the east you pass through a deserted settlement of undated stone-walled hut circles and Medieval houses. I assume that the stone used in the settlement was taken from the cairn, add to this the stone that was probably taken from the cairn to build the dry stone field boundary walls and you get some idea of how large this cairn was when it was originally built in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age.
This monument has been described as belonging to the Great Barrow Class, a class of monuments that includes the Great Barrows of the Yorkshire Wolds and Wessex, but this is the Pennine uplands, there are no rolling fields of chalk downland here. So why?
If you stand upon the cairn and look west you can see Wild Boar Fell and the eastern margins of Cumbria. If you look east you can see the Tabular hills on the margins of the North York Moors. East meets west at Stoney Raise cairn.
Paulus, Rich and I also discussed other possibilities. The nearby prehistoric settlements at Addlebrough are on the slopes of a huge natural monument. The settlements at Caperby had the Great Limestone Scar to mark their lands. Perhaps the people who inhabited the Greenber Edge settlement felt that they also needed to make a dramatic statement in the landscape to announce their presence.
Hereabouts was a stronghold of the old British, until ousted by the advancing legions of Rome; and yonder on the south bluff of Addlebrough is an immense cairn, and under a large heap of stones, called Stone Raise, there slept in peace, for centuries, a chieftain of the old Celtic race; but tradition reported that vast wealth was hidden in the "Golden Chest on Greenbar," as the spot is called, and so, for either curiosity or greed of gain, the ancient chieftain's resting-place has been rudely disturbed; but if the visitor be sufficiently imaginative, he will hear in the spirit of the whirlwind sweeping and howling around Addlebrough, dire sounds as if of conflict; it is the confusion of battle welling up the centuries.
In one of the narrow valleys here [in the neighbourhood of Lake Semerwater], there is a large cairn, or mound, or barrow, about one hundred yards in circumference, and called 'Stone-raise,' 'Stan-raise,' or 'Stan-rise.'
One legend states that a giant was once crossing the country here, with a huge chest of gold in his possession. Strong as he was, it required all his resolution to persevere in conveying it, as he did, upon his back, across these mountains and rugged dales. At last he came to where the mountain of Addleborough barred his way. He looked up, and, surveying it, swore that, in spite of God or man, he would bear his precious burden over its summit. No sooner had he spoken than the chest fell from his shoulders, and Stanrise sprung up and covered it. There the treasure remains. It will only be recovered, when some fortunate individual is able to secure the assistance of a hen, and an ape, to uncover it and draw it forth.
The other legend relates, that formerly a road ran past this place, from Bolton Castle over Greenborough Edge, to Skipton Castle in Craven. Along this road, a party of horsemen was passing from the one stronghold to the other, and, being met by wild and tempestuous weather, and becoming wearied, they dismounted, and rested themselves under the shadow of Stanraise. While thus resting, they swore that they would
'From Bolton to Skipton Castle go,
Whether God would or no.'
As a mark of the Divine displeasure at this profanity, the earth at the foot of the cairn opened, and swallowed up the whole party.